Air quality is important, but how often do we really think about it? Do we even know what air quality is?
Do you check the outdoor air quality report for your region? If you are anything like me, you might have checked it once or twice in your lifetime. Allergy-sufferers need to check it often – even daily – during peak pollen season.
How about your indoor air quality? Have you ever checked that?
Probably not, right? Why would we? At home, we are meant to be safe.
Home is where we spend the larger part of our time. Those who work outside the home spend at least half the day indoors (think of the 7 hours in bed at night, or even more for the lucky ones), while most people spend approximately 90% of their time inside. The majority of us are indoors most of every day, whether it is at home or in an office.
That’s good, right? Less toxins.
Well, I once thought that. However, I was wrong.
Indoor air quality (IAQ) is roughly 2-5 times more toxic than the air outside. Sometimes, even worse.
What Makes IAQ Toxic?
Homes used to breathe 15 times an hour.
Yes, I said our homes breathe. This allows for a healthy level of air exchange. The stale, sometimes toxic air is exchanged for fresher, cleaner air.
As building and construction practices advance, estimates show the average home now breathes less than 6 times an hour. These advancements, while positive (think energy conservation), also have a down side. The lessened air exchange leaves us bottled up with toxic air, negatively affecting our bodies and our minds. Our lungs are forced to be the filters for the contaminates in the air.
What is Contaminating the Air you Breathe?
Our bodies take in oxygen as we inhale, then release carbon monoxide as we exhale. This is in the air around us. Unavoidable.
Dust is a huge contaminant. I know, I know. You just cleaned, right? Well, I’m sorry to inform you that 40 pounds of dust collects in each home per year. Dust is a combination of skin cells (gross, right?), pet dander, pollen, and dust mites found in pillows, blankets, mattresses, carpets and cushions. It is there even if you can’t see it.
Smoking is also a well known contaminate. The smoke from tobacco is highly toxic and harmful to our lungs, and has a severe negative affect on IAQ.
Mold is another concern. Cleaning products used to eliminate it are just as worrisome. Most commercial cleaners are made with toxic, harmful chemicals that flood our lungs with poison.
VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are another harmful contaminant commonly found in the home. Paint, furniture, air fresheners, drapes, polishes, glue, carpet backings, dyes, liquid & toilet cleaners, and markers contain them.
What about new purchases? Take note that new purchases off-gas. Off-gassing occurs when products release chemicals into the air. These chemical are highly toxic. Most furnishings are treated before they are shipped to our homes. Your new couch, rug, carpet, and mattress are examples. In addition, clothing articles are not exempt from this treatment. Also included are handbags and new shoes.
Newness can often mean a clean start. Off-gassing, however, is happening in your home unless you purposely sought out low VOC products or products made without harmful chemicals.
How do I know if I am affected by poor IAQ?
Have you ever wondered if the air in your home was making you sick?
Our bodies are super smart. They tell us when something is not right. Our bodies use common symptoms to tell us our air is not clean enough for us.
Some of the most common symptoms of breathing poor IAQ are headaches, restless sleep, allergies, asthma, respiratory issues, shortness of breathe, eye, nose, throat irritations, fatigue, and depression.
Any and all of the above can be a sign that your body cannot properly process the air inside your home.
Who is most affected by IAQ?
Those most affected by poor IAQ are the young, the elderly, and anyone with pre-existing respiratory conditions.
Remember when I stated the average person is inside 90% of the time?
There is one age group that is indoors almost 100% of the time: newborns. Our precious babies are born in an enclosed environment (hospital), transported home in a closed vehicle (I know I kept my windows up), and then swaddled up, nice and safe, in the confinement of our homes. Newborns and young children are significantly affected by IAQ.
Now, you might be wondering how you can improve the IAQ in your own home.
I’ve got a blog for that.
Check out my next blog posts: Ten Ways to Improve the Air Quality in your Home.